Fence around chancellor’s residence completed at 2 1/2 times original budget

Mitzi Perez/Staff

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A nearly $700,000 fence around Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ residence — formally known as University House — was completed last month, greatly exceeding the initial budget.

With a price tag of $699,000, the fence, which began construction in August 2015, cost more than 2 1/2 times as much as the originally approved $270,000. The fence was first proposed before Dirks took office because of disturbances and “increasingly violent attacks on the house,” according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

“The house was attacked and people threw burning torches at it,” Mogulof said, referring to incidents that occurred when former UC Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau occupied the mansion. “There were a number of late-night incursions in and around the house.”

An official summary of the project showed that the first design called for a “short fence behind the hedge at the top of the south stairs.” But because of subsequent increased activity around the house, UCPD recommended a stronger fence with more security features, the summary stated.

Construction of the second design began last summer, but that design was altered in August after then-Academic Senate chair Benjamin Hermalin wrote a letter criticizing Dirks for “seal(ing) off a swath of the campus from the broader community.”

Relocating the fence as well as the security infrastructure already put in place closer to the chancellor’s residence increased construction costs by $200,000, Mogulof said, resulting in the $699,000 final cost.

In November 2015, student activists protesting for workers’ rights marched to the chancellor’s house and jumped over the not-yet completed fence. They proceeded to pound on the chancellor’s door and vandalize the property.

The completed project — designed to prevent such intrusions — includes automatic gates, card readers and cameras for access to the gateways. Additionally, “500 feet of conduits, including electronics” were installed to allow the gates to be operated from within the house, according to the official summary.

According to Mogulof, the project will save money for the campus — despite its inflated price tag — by reducing the cost of security staff outside the chancellor’s residence by $360,000 every year.

“The security staffing for the University House, like many of our security contracts with the campus, are funded by the University as a contract for services,” said UCPD spokesperson Sgt. Sabrina Reich in an email.

Some UC Berkeley students, however, see the creation of the fence as more than simply a cost-cutting issue, saying that it shows that campus administrators are trying to avoid activists and protesters.

Contact Karim Doumar at [email protected].

A previous version of this article failed to disclose a conflict of interest between the author and a source.

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  • Slamsam

    Why stop at a fence? How about a glass dome over the chancellor’s house: https://youtu.be/0DFxuLgUArs

  • CamNewton

    My question is, was there EVER an incident that necessitated this? Or was it our poor old chancellor who felt insecure, despite dozens of chancellors before him doing just fine?

  • Aaron Parr

    Elitists in public positions increasingly need to wall themselves off and violently squelch dissent. Let alone attempt to scrub the public record of their misdeeds.

    Until they serve the people they won’t be safe. There will always be enough angry people to make their lives uncomfortable no matter how high the walls are and how many armed guards they have.

  • Gene Nelson

    I often feel sorry for you still trying. You live near a University you hate and constantly obsess on, by choice. You want to be miserable. And you are.

    • still trying

      Gene, it appears you are the one with no life. I get lots of like for my 2 cents, you get nothing. Take a hint, Gene.

      • Gene Nelson

        It’s so easy to bait a troll into posting.

        Now be a good frat-obsessed doggie and post again. Woof. obey your master doggie.

      • Gene Nelson

        sure you do.
        we all believe you have a great life.

    • lspanker

      People don’t need to “hate” the UC system to realize it has some real problems in the fiscal accountability department.

  • Gene Nelson

    “It’s ridiculous,” said campus junior Leland Reardon. “If (UC) Berkeley’s administration is afraid of students, maybe it should put some more effort to solving the problems it was hired to deal with instead of putting up fences.” So Reardon, you advocate that if you vandalize property and toss torches at frightened people inside the house, you will get your way. Nice. Please give me your address so I can come visit you and get you to solve the problem of vandalism.

    • still trying

      So Gene, You think it is wrong when students behave irresponsibly, except if it is a frat. So you’re stating no one can misbehave in your world except for frat boys. For them, this behavior you mention above, is OK. Boy Gene are you messed up in the head.

      • Gene Nelson

        I’m not the one who lives in a town he hates and obsesses on frats and takes videos of them all the time

        • still trying

          Gene, you remind me of the people who stated to me upon my return from Vietnam in “72”, when I started protesting the war here. “Love it or leave it”, referring to the protesters. Gene you fool, If someone loves a home and sees the area destroyed and is encourage to destroy more by people like you, Why should I move? Shouldn’t I not stay and try to improve things for the next generation? It is you that needs to reevaluate ones life and the waste of oxygen you’ve used. It is time your are evaluated by a shrink. Maybe they can explain your fascination with me and your utter uselessness to the world. Gene, it is because of people like you,,that will hand off a world much worse off, to the next generation, than when you arrived. Gene, you are a typical selfish individual who is concerned only about one self. And the world would be better off without people like you. I am sorry to say these things, Gene. But you are a total idiot and fool and needs mental health help, fast.

    • Guest

      Looks like Bezerkeley has more in common with Trump than they realize. Sorry snowflakes!

  • Good fences make good neighbors. Good grief. One more reason why young Americans cannot afford college.

  • Shay Pshifter

    Fence cost equal to 20 years of funding for now “too expensive to maintain” UC Berkeley Emma Goldman Papers archive.

    • Guest

      Hot damn. No only was I under the impression that fences didn’t work, I thought fences were racist too. Did Mexico pay for it?

  • Pixilicious

    And we have to pay for this clown’s house … because?? You’d think he could live off the $516,000 per year without needing public assistance for housing, wouldn’t you?

    Perhaps if he were to stop acting like some 3rd-world dictator in his actions and lifestyle, he wouldn’t need that fancy security fence because students would be less tempted to kill him.

    • Lol when it was reported that he bought a private house a few weeks ago with his savings everyone was up in arms about “how dare he” and that it’s injustice.

      The university mansion was built in the 1800s when building houses for Chancellors was standard. What do you want the university to do with it now? Let it sit empty and increase the chancellor’s salary? The reality is that when we get a new chancellor the perk of the house will be factored in as part of the salary negotiations. The primary function of the official residence is fundraising and holding official events now-a-days anyways.

  • Nunya Beeswax

    How many people will the Chancellor have to lay off to pay for this?

    • Apparently $360,000 of UCPD hours per year. But I thought we didn’t like UCPD?

  • Won’t it be nice when you kick the Chancellor out and turn that into a student center / study hall?